The Modern Suit of Armour
The door latch snaps shut. The cool air is still in the stairwell of my apartment building. My boots clatter on the tiled steps. I trudge out into the path of like-minded souls shuffling for the train. Heads down, collars up, hair still wet from the shower. I pull my overcoat tight, pressing my suit and tie against my body. We stand in line at the platform edge. We step onto the train and diplomatically wrestle for space. Each jostle and jolt of the train pushes at the edge of our being. The march continues along the beaten path we’ve made to our desks.
Off comes the coat. I sit down and take aim at the first email. Fire. It should read “Why the fuck is it so hard to get it right…” instead I spatter out the tactful response “could you help me understand?” I’m distracted by the first of the team ascending the stairs to their desk. Dread stained on their face as the bootup sequence of the PC echoes in the room. They straighten their tie and sit down. Our uniform unites us in an unending struggle. We don’t talk unless it’s necessary. Taking turns to make tea, ration out biscuits, returning to the glare of our screen. Light is pumped consistently through fluorescent tubes. The air warmed to an indifferent degree. In my head the battle rages on as I type out the next email.
I slurp my lunch at the desk. I’m bouncing between the thought of sending the “I quit” email and checking my bank account. I need some air. I button up and throw on my coat. The air still bitter outside. I breathe deep. Then I’m caught by the rev of an engine. A courier dives between a van and parked car. The SV650 Suzuki mixes a throaty slip on exhaust note and engine whir. It ducks into the next lane. I sigh. Three hours until I’m out. Four until I’m in the saddle. The afternoon drones on through revisions and meetings. Everyone politely playing their part. Suit, tie, shaved, stoic; we’re doing battle in the modern suit of armour.
Keys, phone, wallet, coat. I pull the plug on the final email in order to make the train. The surge of humans is rising. We escape the threat of drowning from the rising tide of emails. We traverse our beaten path. Wearing down the soles of our shoes. Headphones tranquilise the carriage. Sliding doors, the flash of opal cards, the walk back up the hill. I shed the suit and tie and replace them with jeans and a leather jacket. The day’s thoughts remain rattling in my brain. I push the Ducati out of the garage and fire the starter switch. It rumbles up to idle as I pull on my helmet. I throw my leg over, fold back the kickstand, step into first and twist the throttle. The bike roars back at me the frustrations of the day. Slicing between cars and trucks I make for the road heading east. My mind is clearing but the emails still echo in my helmet. The lights ahead flick to amber and I punch the throttle. I squeeze the brake as I cross the line. Flash, flash. The words “fuck it” bounce off the inside of my visor. My speedo shows 78. The light is still amber but my face is already red.
I continue my way. My mood and shoulders deflated. The man on my shoulder whispers shame in my ear – how didn’t you notice the new speed camera? He chatters away in my ear as I try to drown him out with the exhaust note of the bike. I find my way down to the beach and lurch to a stop.
For this entire effort taken in wearing the right gear to protect me from the unforgiving ground, there is little effort in forgiving myself. I hide between my fitted suit or slim cut Kevlar jeans yet the grazes I suffer from the man in my head never heal. Its like he’s been raised ready for a fight. Always carrying his sword and shield. Protecting my ego, that voice born from my father, my teachers, my rivals – I am not enough.
The waves crash on the shores of a low tide. Piece by piece I remove my gloves, my helmet, my jacket, my boots. I change into my swimmers and feel the sand between my feet. The water catches my toes, freezing, yet I carry on. Weightless in the water I realise the weight I carry in the armour that surrounds my mind. My inner child floats free in the ocean. The struggles of the day wash clean. I forgive myself for the mistakes I’ve made – it’s a start. Salty and sandy I return to the bike. Piece by piece I rebuild my armour. I fire up the bike. I’m lighter now. The weight between my shoulders is drained. I twist the throttle and take myself home.